AVON PARK — Avon Park rode the strong pitching of Daniel Simons and timely hitting to a 6-0 win over Lake Placid in Tuesday’s semifinals of the Class 4A-District 9 tournament at Charles R. Head Field.
The win improved the Red Devils to 19-4 and moves them into Friday night’s district championship game against McKeel Academy, which defeated Mulberry 5-4.
“We’re thankful for the win,” said Avon Park coach Whit Cornell. “We worked really hard to get here and played a solid game offensively and in the field.
“Daniel was outstanding and we did a good job of getting two-out hits.”
Simons, who improved to an impressive 11-0, allowed a pair of two-out baserunners in the top of the first inning, but the right-hander settled down to get the third out with no runs scoring.
The Avon Park offense went to work in the bottom of the frame as leadoff batter Alfred Brown reached on an infield error, Luis Martinez had an infield single and Tyrone Perry ripped a single to right field off of Jacob Cram to plate Brown.
Cram struck out the next two batters but designated hitter Kyle Kelley lined a single to center field to score Martin and Perry to give the Red Devils a 3-0 lead.
“Kyle has really come on strong and is swinging the bat well,” said Cornell. “Two-out hits are big and that hit gave us a lot of momentum.”
Simons is only a freshman but has great composure and he cruised through the Green Dragon batting order through the fifth inning before the Red Devils tacked on some insurance runs.
Perry worked a one-out walk, Mykel Gordon walked and Mason Jahna had an infield single which the second baseman threw away for an error allowing Perry and Gordon to score.
Kelley smacked a single to center field to plate the final run of the inning to give Avon Park a commanding 6-0 lead.
That was more then enough support for Simons, who limited Lake Placid to five hits in a complete-game effort.”
“Daniel threw strikes and our defense did their job behind him,” said Cornell. “We’re playing with a lot of effort and this is a great group of guys to coach.”
Lake Placid finished the season 8-13, but the Green Dragons have a solid nucleus of players returning.”
“We just couldn’t get it going when we needed to,” said first-year coach D.W. Daum. “This is a good group of kids, they played hard and did the best they could.”
Avon Park takes on a talented McKeel squad on Friday night which the Red Devils split a pair of games with during the season.
“McKeel has a good team and is well-coached,” Cornell said. “We blew a seven-run lead in the game we lost to them and we match up well with them.”
Both teams advance to next week’s regional quarterfinals with the district champion hosting a game, while the district runner-up goes on the road.
“We’ve had a good season and we’re looking forward to playing McKeel for the district championship on Friday night,” Cornell said. “We would love to win the district title and have a regional home game in front of our fans.”